Brethren Disaster Ministries is directing grants from the denomination’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to Church of the Brethren congregations and districts in the US and Puerto Rico that are carrying out pandemic-related humanitarian relief work.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Grants Program began in late April. As of the end of July, 25 congregations across 9 districts have received grants totaling $104,662. Programs have included food distributions, hot or takeaway meals, children’s summer meals, childcare, rental and utility assistance, hygiene and safety supplies, and shelter for vulnerable homeless populations. Brethren Disaster Ministries is beginning to receive reports about some of the first grants given, and it is clear that the assistance came at just the right time and has been received with gratitude.
A second round of COVID-19 grant funding for congregations and districts will be announced in September. Priority for the next round will be given to first-time grantees.
The following grants, totaling $46,562, were approved between May 27 and July 29:
Brake Church of the Brethren in Petersburg, W.Va., received $5,000 to continue its assistance to people in need in its community. During the pandemic, needs have increased dramatically at the same time that the church’s income has dropped. The grant has allowed the church to continue to provide assistance, particularly to an increased number of homeless people who need temporary housing and supplies before heading to longer term shelters.
Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren in the Phoenix metro area of Arizona--one of the nation’s hotspots for COVID-19--has received $5,000. The grant has helped the church purchase and deliver supplies to the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, which is experiencing a basic supply shortage; support frontline healthcare workers who are in vulnerable situations and need assistance with food, housing, transportation, and more; and assist vulnerable people with an emphasis on BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people of color) populations in need of help with housing and transportation assistance to maintain employment.
Eglise des Freres/Haitian Church of the Brethren in Naples, Fla., has received $4,000. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most of the church members (including the pastor) and many community members are not able to work. The grant allowed the church to provide a once-weekly distribution of food, hygiene, cleaning, and safety supplies to both church and community.
Iglesia de Cristo Génesis in the Los Angeles area of California has received $2,500. About 90 percent of the church membership is low-income many have been laid off from jobs or have difficult paying bills and buying food for their families because of pandemic restrictions. The grant has helped the church purchase food in bulk from local food banks, and hygiene and safety supplies for distribution, and has helped with rent and utility assistance particularly for families whose needs include access to the Internet for school children required to do lessons from home.
La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren has received $2,500 to provide meals for Hope for Home, a year-round homeless service facility in nearby Pomona. The three-month program provides homeless people assistance with finding housing, job opportunities, and in some cases reconciliation with their families. Due to the shutdown caused by the pandemic, many of the other organizations partnering in the project were unable to provide funding or volunteers to prepare meals. The grant enabled the church to increase its commitment from one meal a month to provide five meals for each of two months.
Maple Spring Church of the Brethren in Eglon, W.Va., received $5,000 for its food pantry. It has seen at least a 300 percent increase in need since it began to provide meals and pantry items a year ago. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many small stores in the area have had to close, seriously reducing the available food supply particularly for elderly community members. Food donations also decreased so more food has had to be bought to supply the pantry. The grant is helping increase the amount and nutritional value of the food offered to families, both in take-away meals and take-home pantry boxes.
Miami (Fla.) First Church of the Brethren received $3,000 to help provide food in its multicultural immigrant area where many low-income workers became unemployed and many local businesses closed due to COVID-19. The church witnessed long lines everywhere of people looking for food. The grant will help purchase farm fresh produce from a local organization to distribute in the community, as well as a back-to-school event for the church’s ministry to youth in the area, where school supplies and uniforms will be distributed.
The Gathering Chicago, a Church of the Brethren project in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, Ill., received $2,800 to address community needs for health and safety supplies and information and spiritual/mental/emotional assistance to local leaders during the pandemic. The grant will support online events and, when possible, community events including a local wellness series program; a Wellness and Prayer Caravan “car parade” to drop off care packages and COVID-19 safety information and supplies to community members who are “sick and shut-in”; a “Play for Peace” event; and distribution of personal protective equipment as needed in the community.
Unify Christians Church of the Brethren located in a Haitian community in North Miami Beach, Fla., received $5,000 to help continued its distributions of food and supplies twice weekly. Many in the area have lost their jobs due to the shutdown and other restrictions, and the need has multiplied. The church had lost income amid increased need. The grant money is being used almost entirely to purchase food, with a small amount going to assist vulnerable people, particularly widows.
University Baptist and Brethren Church in State College, Pa., received $5,000 for its work to support the Out of the Cold Centre County homeless program during the cold months. The 2020 season was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and because of concerns about sheltering people in the churches that participate, supporters provided funding to house homeless people in hotels overnight. Once the congregate shelter was able to reopen there were some vulnerable people who still needed hotel housing. This grant allowed the church to commit to supporting this need for 6 guests for 15 nights.
Westminster (Md.) Church of the Brethren received $4,762 to support its longterm Loaves and Fishes noon meal on Saturdays. Since mid-March, the church has been limited to providing take-away meals and bottled water due to pandemic restrictions and safety issues. The church will use the grant money to provide hygiene items, masks, and extra food to clients, as well as assistance with rent and utilities.
Also distributed were the remainder of grants to Ephrata (Pa.) Church of the Brethren in the amount of $1,000 and to Sebring (Fla.) Church of the Brethren in the amount of $1,000.
Find out more about the COVID-19 Pandemic Grants Program at https://covid19.brethren.org/grants .
-- Sharon Billings Franzén, office manager for Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report.